“My heart’s not in it.” sang Charlie Mooney on the last track of the second Desert Hearts LP ‘Hotsy Totsy Nagasaki’ back in 2006.
And as time passed from that record without a further substantial release, it was starting to look as if, maybe, he meant it.
A couple of slightly odd sounding instrumental demos on Myspace (yes, that long ago) suggested that there was still life in the band. But it wasn’t until the release of ‘Wolf Down’ as a download single last year and the inclusion of a new track on the Gargleblast Christmas E.P. that tangible evidence of their continuing existence emerged.
A further download single a few weeks back heralded the imminent arrival of third LP “Enturbulation = No Challenge”, finally released on Monday on No Dancing Records. And repeated listens to ‘E=NC’ proves that it is a worthy addition to an increasingly long list of excellent 2013 LPs.
One thing is clear from the record – Desert Hearts have moved on. ‘E=NC’ is recognisably them yet it’s undoubtedly a progression. In fact listening to all three albums back to week this week the shift from the at times claustrophobic sound of ‘Let’s Get Worse’ through ‘Hotsy Totsy Nagaski’ to the new one is quite stark.
You see, ‘E=NC’ opens out Desert Hearts’ horizons considerably. They’ve always had additional instrumentation in their sound but the use of strings and brass is more pronounced this time around widening their sonic palette.
Its most accessible moment is probably ballad ‘Tell The King’, which almost sounds like a lush Ash ballad with its strings over the chorus and guitar solo. And somewhere in the middle of side one, there’s a striking similarity to Big Dipper.
Yet for all that this is undoubtely the most accessible Desert Hearts record, it’s still not THAT obvious. Rather, songs like ‘Wolf Down’ and ‘Powertrash’ sucker you in over several plays then plant their hooks irretrievably inside your head.
There’s still an adventurous air to the songs. The best example is ‘Liberators’ which starts off as the heaviest track on the album yet, after its first (and only) chorus, it takes off for the stratosphere. And then there’s ‘Oak Mot’, perhaps the most up tempo tune on the record with its sparky brass. Yet it packs a real emotional punch behind its pop exterior with its lyrics of loss at odds to the carefree music.
Desert Hearts’ track record suggested that “Enturbulation = No Challenge” would be worth the wait. It most certainly is but it’s also a record which repays repeated listens. Another essential 2013 album.
“Enturbulation = No Challenge” is available from No Dancing Records. The band launch the album with a show at Belfast, Voodoo tomorrow evening (Friday 31st May).
The opening track from the album: